COVID-19 Across Chicago: Pullman and Roseland

Every Chicago neighborhood is unique, but only one has been designated a national monument by the National Park Service.

Pullman’s historic planned community of row houses and factory buildings have been preserved and dedicated to the labor movement.

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Just to the west, the community of Roseland has struggled with disinvestment and the loss of industry for several decades. 

Both communities lie within a zip code that has reported 788 cases of COVID-19, a moderately high number compared to other areas of the city.

Interactive: More from our series, COVID-19 Across Chicago.

Roseland is home to a large number of residents who suffer from a lot of the underlying illnesses that can make COVID-19 symptoms severe, which is why Roseland Community Hospital was overwhelmed with patients in the first weeks of the pandemic. The hospital says it has performed nearly 11,000 COVID-19 tests.

“The patients at this hospital have multiple medical issues that are advanced, whether it be heart disease, diabetes, or pneumonia,” said Dr. Terrill Applewhite, head of Roseland Hostpial’s coronavirus response team. “As a result of that, you have to consider that when you’re admitting these patients. So we have to submit these patients to undergo multiple tests.”

Roseland also struggles with higher rates of unemployment and has many low-income residents. Pullman has seen progress in recent years with the construction of the Method Soap Factory, a giant Walmart store, and an Amazon distribution center that is set to come online next fall.

But the unemployment rate is compounded by the historic number of layoffs and furloughs brought on by the pandemic. 

Darran Chambliss, who owns a home in Roseland and was laid off last month as a sous-chef at Shaw’s Crab House, says he has tried unsuccessfully to get through the Illinois Department of Employment Security to receive unemployment checks for four weeks.

“You’ve got people out here hurting, hungry, they have kids, I have a baby on the way,” Chambliss said. “We gotta take care of our families, and we can’t do that. It’s really hard. I’m borrowing money from my brother, my sister, my mom, so I can take care of the bills at my house.”

Another chronic problem in Roseland has been the lack of locally owned businesses.    

Judy Ware, who owns  The Ranch Steak House, says she was successful at getting federal PPP loans, the bulk of which are to go to retaining employees. But she says a lack of business and an inability to transition to delivery or takeout has forced the restaurant to close, which means she’ll have to pay those funds back.

“You have to pay 75% of that loan to your employees for salaries if it’s going to be forgiven,” Ware said. “But the restaurant isn’t going to be opened up … until June 26. So I’m probably going to have to make it a loan and it’s not going to be forgiven.

If Roseland community organizers have their way, the neighborhood’s once-thriving shopping district along south Michigan Avenue could join Pullman and receive a historic landmark status. Residents have fought for the status to preserve old buildings and get funds for redevelopment. 

That’s now all on hold.

“It was considered the shopping mecca, it was the jewel of the South Side. It can be that again,” said Andrea Reed, president of the Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce. “We just have to get some things turned around.”

One local community organization says that, despite the historic unemployment levels, there are still jobs, including summer jobs for youth. Phalanx Family Services has provided employment training to the community since 2003. President Tina Sanders says the group has transitioned to offering virtual job training courses, and is still trying to place participants in jobs. But Sanders estimates that as many as 40% of the group’s participants don’t have access to a computer, and that many others are struggling to complete their coursework while they care for children who are home from school. 

“Those clients we work with that were in the process of being prepared for jobs, they can’t come in,” Sanders said. “They can’t work with us virtually because they don’t have the equipment they need. There are jobs that are still hiring. We can’t necessarily fill them now because a lot of the parents just don’t have childcare. So that has really impacted us.”

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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